Thorough pre- and post-trip inspections help drivers and carriers meet federal safety standards and improve safety — and the results of roadside inspections can hurt or help carriers' safety scores depending on what law enforcement finds.
A good inspection can reduce the number of on-the-road breakdowns drivers experience by making sure trucks are in good working condition. Also, good scores can help carriers drive up their Compliance Safety Accountability scores.
During a Level-I Inspection, which is conducted at roadside, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) said it focuses on brakes, coupling devices, fuel and exhaust systems, frames in van and open-top trailers, lighting, properly secured cargo, steering, suspension, and tires, wheels and rims.
Mike Hasinec, vice president of maintenance for Penske Truck Leasing, said that during every pre-trip inspection, drivers should look for leaks, damage, operable lights, properly secured cargo, sagging equipment and anything that seems out of place. Common maintenance problems drivers usually find include lights, cracked windshields, faded placards, and chaffed light cords and hoses, which are visible to the driver.
Some problems, such as those with electrical items or lights, can also be harder to identify as they may be working fine before a trip but develop an issue as a driver is moving. The same holds true for leaks, which could emerge as drivers are driving and may be harder to catch ahead of time.
Air leaks are a significant contributor to out-of-service violations, Hasinec said. Drivers should be sure to check for air leaks during their pre-trip inspections. They can help spot leaks by releasing the parking brakes, applying the brake pedal/treadle valve and monitoring the air gauges, he said. The tractor-trailer combination should not lose more than three pounds of pressure in a one-minute time period. A single unit should not lose more than two pounds in one minute.
Many carriers begin discussing inspections during new-hire orientation and show drivers the items that could potentially be a problem and warrant extra attention. They also keep the topic alive during regular safety meetings.
There is RFID technology on the market that requires drivers to scan tags on specific zones on the tractor. The technology reminds drivers of what they need to check and ensures they cover each area. Other technology utilizes a workflow that requires drivers to complete a pre-trip inspection and uses an electronic Driver Vehicle Inspection report. ELD logs also provide insight into drivers' inspections by showing how much time drivers are taking to look over their vehicles. A proper inspection can take 15 to 30 minutes.
Post-trips are just as important because if defects are found, they can be repaired during the off-duty time, so the equipment is ready the following day. Post-trips give carriers time to make necessary repairs, and they also provide documentation the next driver can review during his or her pre-trip inspection. If the previous driver noted defects or deficiencies, the new driver should sign the inspection report to acknowledge that he or she has reviewed it and that there is a certification that the required repairs have been performed.